on Sunday, September, 08 2013 @ 04:58:32 pm (813 words)
In Uncategorized [ 28002 views ]

 

The beautiful Majestic Theatre has been one of the most impressive of Dallas, Texas, landmarks since its construction in 1920 and 1921. This five-story Renaissance Revival edifice located at 1925 Elm Street was designed by John Eberson, the noted Chicago architect, under the direction of Texas businessman Karl St. John Hoblitzelle, a successful manager of vaudeville and movie theaters, and built at a cost of nearly two million dollars. With a seating capacity of 2,800, it opened on April 11, 1921, during the final years of the vaudeville era.

The flagship of Karl Hoblitzelle's Interstate Amusement Company chain of theaters, the Majestic was the most impressive of a number of vaudevillian theaters that lined "Theater Row," which composed an entertainment district of several blocks along Elm Street.  By the late 1970's all of these establishments but the Majestic had been demolished.

The Majestic is the third Hoblitzelle theater in Dallas to be so named (though there were other Majestics in the chain). It was built to replace the original Majestic Theatre that burned in 1916. That structure, built for Hoblitzelle in 1905, was located at the corner of Commerce and St. Paul streets.  During the construction of the new building, the Old Opera House at the corner of Main and St. Paul was the temporary home of the Majestic.

Impressively ornate throughout, the Renaissance Revival style Majestic Theatre was aptly named. The exterior front of the first-floor level originally was covered by an attractive canopy above which was affixed a large and impressive marquee and decorative lighting.

Much of the upper four floors of the building (20,000 square feet) served as office space for conducting the business affairs of the Hoblitzelle chain. The indoor lobby and auditorium were decorated in the baroque style featuring elements such as Corinthian columns, egg-and-dart moulding, Roman swags and fretwork, and cartouches. Two upper balconies were reached by an elegant cage elevator featuring brass railing as well as carriage lamps on either side.  The lobby featured beautiful black and white marble flooring and twin marble staircases. Brass mirrors, crystal chandeliers, ferns, and a marble fountain like one in the gardens at the Vatican added to the "Roman gardens" theme of the theater.

Opened as an entertainment venue near the end of the vaudeville era, the Majestic in 1922 also began featuring motion pictures. Having hosted such show business luminaries as Mae West, Harry Houdini, Jack Benny, and Bob Hope, the theater increasingly was used for showing movies, with the live entertainment tradition carried on in occasional appearances of big bands featuring Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. A Fort Worth resident named Ginger Rogers began her show business career singing and dancing at the Majestic. In 1932 the theater began showing movies exclusively. With the July 16, 1973, final showing of the movie Live and Let Die, the Majestic Theatre "went dark."

The Majestic was used as the setting of the concert scenes in the 1974-released motion-picture-musical Phantom of the Paradise, written and directed by Brian De Palma. In January 1976, the Majestic was given to the city of Dallas by the Hobilitzelle Foundation. Careful, extensive, and detailed restorations and renovations under the direction of Dallas's own Oglesby Group soon began. In 1977 the elegant edifice became the first Dallas building added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1983 its import was recognized through a marker from the Texas Historical Commission.

The Majestic Theatre reopened on January 28, 1983, and today hosts a range of shows such as comedy acts, dramatic plays, nationally touring concerts, and locally produced cultural and fundraising events.  Managed by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, the theater is also a venue for private functions and corporate meetings.

As one would expect with a building nearing a century in age, reports have been made that would indicate a haunting of this historic showplace.  Odd fragrances, backdrops that move unaided by human hands, and phone lines that light up though no one is calling have been cited as evidence of spectral presence. On several instances a single light bulb in a circuit containing other lights in the balcony has been said to suddenly illuminate. These and other strange occurrences have been attributed to none other than Karl St. John Hoblitzelle who passed away in 1967 but whose spirit is said still to linger in the theater he so loved. Joy Tipping a writer for The Dallas Morning News reported that in her twenties while working with the Dallas Ballet, which had offices on the upper floor of the theater, that her particular office had an inexplicable chill that necessitated her bringing a sweater to work. A door leading from the office into the theater likewise strangely was often unlocked and open though securely locked by her the evening before. She was finally informed by her boss that the office had been that of Hoblitzelle who used it as his personal entrance into the theater to check on performances.

 




on Sunday, February, 26 2012 @ 04:29:45 pm (1199 words)
In Uncategorized [ 53548 views ]

 

The magnificent Georgian Revival landmark located at 1509 Pennsylvania Avenue in Fort Worth, Texas, was designed by the Fort Worth architectural firm of Sanguinet and  Staats.  Once the home of wealthy cattle barons, it is today a venue for weddings and other special events.  Though last utilized as a residence decades ago, the mansion, according to some, is yet the abode of occupants of the spectral kind.

Originally constructed during 1903 and 1904 in the colonial style, this historic three-story mansion was built for newly-wed Electra (Waggoner) Wharton, the second oldest of five children and the only daughter of wealthy rancher and oilman William Thomas ("Tom") Waggoner and his wife Ella (Halsell) Waggoner, shortly after Electra's June 10, 1902, marriage to prominent Philadelphian Albert Buckman Wharton, whom she had met in 1901 while touring the Himalayas. Electra named the home "Thistle Hill."

Sources differ concerning construction costs (ranging from $38,000 to $46,000) of the 11,000-square-foot, eighteen-room home. The red brick exterior is bordered with cast stone trim, and white wooden stylistic elements trim and accentuate the roof and exterior walls.  Semicircular bays flank the main wing of the mansion. Inside, the home features built-in closets throughout. Intricate elaborate interior woodwork is represented by an elegant oak grand double staircase and entry hall. Plaster stenciling and Tiffany Palladian windows are additional attractive interior design features. The mansion has five full bathrooms and eight fireplaces. Period furnishings are featured throughout the thoroughly restored edifice.

The Waggoner family amassed their immense wealth from ranching and oil. In 1853, a year after Tom Waggoner's birth in Hopkins County, Texas, his mother died and his father, Daniel, set out to become a successful cattleman, establishing ranch headquarters in Wise County. Tom followed in his father's footsteps and by 1869 was made a full partner in the ranching enterprise. By 1879, Tom was manager of the Waggoner Ranch's China Creek headquarters in northwestern Wichita County. He continued adding to his land holdings and in 1909, having repeatedly noticed traces of oil in failed attempts to provide fresh water for his herds through drilling, leased 250,000 acres to Texaco. Subsequent oil discoveries led, after 1911, to the founding of Waggoner Refinery and other business interests which increased Tom Waggoner's wealth such that he became one of the richest men in the American Southwest.

Electra Waggoner was born near Decatur, Wise County, Texas, on 6 January 1882 at the ranch home, known as "El Castile," of her grandfather Daniel Waggoner (passport records however give 15 January as her birthday). (It was in this residence years later that she and Albert Wharton were wed.) She attended Southwestern University and Ward-Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee, from which she was graduated. Soon thereafter she made her world tour during which she met her future husband. She died in New York, New York, on 26 November 1925.  Albert Wharton, son of Mahlon I. and Sarah (Buckman) Wharton, was born in Fallsington, Pennsylvania, on 18 September 1879. Following his marriage to Electra, he owned and managed Fort Worth Auto and Livery Stable, the first automobile dealership of Fort Worth, which dealt in Winston and Franklin cars. He died in Los Angeles, California, on 13 August 1963. The Whartons were parents of two sons, Tom W. and Albert B., Jr. (the latter known as "Buster").

Tom Waggoner divided his estate and partitioned his lands among his three surviving children, each receiving 90,000 acres of land and 10,000 head of cattle.  In 1910, the Whartons sold Thistle Hill and moved to the W. T. Waggoner Ranch (Zacaweista) near Vernon in Wilbarger County.  Cattleman and real estate tycoon Winfield Scott (1849-1911) spent $90,000 in the purchase of Thistle Hill. He and his wife, Elizabeth (Simmons) Winfield (1861-1938) then undertook extensive remodeling (said to have cost $100,000) which included the addition of impressive limestone Tuscan columns that replaced the original large columns and the second-floor wrap-around porch across the front.  Original wooden decorative elements were replaced with wrought iron and the original green wood shingles of the gambrel roof were replaced with green tiles imported from Italy. Scott died, however, before the completion of the remodeling.  Elizabeth and her nine-year-old son, Winfield, Jr., took up residence at Thistle Hill in 1911. Mrs. Scott lived in the home until her death in 1938. Besides expanding the gardens, she added a pergola and tea house to the grounds which are fenced with brick walls and ironwork. Also, remaining on the grounds is a beautiful carriage house.

Following the death of his mother, Winfield, Jr., sold the home in 1940 for a mere $17,500 to the Girl's Service League of Fort Worth, which used the mansion as a dormitory for underprivileged girls until 1968 when the league sold it.  Their purchase, use, and minor, surface repairs to the home ultimately saved the mansion from the wrecking ball. The home, then called "The Scott" stood empty until 1975 when a committee called "Save-the-Scott" leased and then later purchased the home for preservation. The group's slow and methodical restoration of the home returned it to its 1912 condition. In 1977 Thistle Hill was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In January of 2005, Historic Fort Worth, Inc. (a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to historical preservation) was gifted the property and today continues with preservation activities as well as tours and rentals of the historic venue for private and corporate events.

Reports of two apparitions began to be made during the period of early renovations during the 1970's. One of them is said to be that of a woman dressed in white who appears on the landing of the grand staircase. Also, seen was the figure of a man dressed in tennis clothes, and some sources say, sporting a handlebar moustache.  During this same period of renovations, workers reported music emanating from the closed-off third storey ballroom.  Footsteps and voices are reported to be quite common in the mansion.  During one paranormal investigation by reporters and ghost hunters on a night in October of 1997, disembodied voices and footsteps were heard, and a ghost hunter awoke to discover a dark shapeless materialization hovering over her. This strange form then disappeared when she turned on her flashlight.  An interesting incident occurred in the ballroom involving a rocking chair said to have been ninety-seven years old at the time of the event. The chair was removed from the ballroom and covered with plastic. The chair was later found back in the ballroom, sans plastic, even though no one claimed to have moved it.

An online story, by-lined "Bogienova," (posted 12 September 2007) reports a sighting by that author's friend who was a bridesmaid in a wedding being held at Thistle Hill.  Having been sent back upstairs to retrieve the bride's veil which had been left in a bridal dressing room, the bridesmaid passed a lady (whom she took to be a character actor) dressed in clothing from a much earlier era exiting a parlor near the dressing room. However, no such persons, she was soon informed, were utilized for such appearances, particularly during weddings. Could this lady in "period clothing" have been a ghost? Might she have been the lady previously seen on the stairway?  Who are the ha'nts of Thistle Hill?

 

(Photo credit: View of the Thistle Hill Mansion at Fort Worth, Texas, used by permission of Historic Fort Worth, Inc.)



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